Rajesh Gopie’s new drama, Tamasha on Hope Street, directed by Gopala Davies, opened at The Market Theatre in September – Heritage month. This was not an accident, but part of the planning to share a story of racism and xenophobia from a South African Indian point of view. Set in Chatsworth, Durban, this story is local, but also universal, and while it includes a brief look at the traditions and cultures of the Indian community, it is easily accessible to people who have no background in the Hindu religious story it references.
Tamasha is a Hindi word meaning “trouble” or “chaos” and it deals with two main themes. The first is the xenophobia and racism so rampant in South Africa from all quarters. The second is a look at the dangerous and degrading lives of the lowly street sex workers.
The story line is simple. Albert, a Zimbabwean teacher, is forced to take on the position of a night watchman at a warehouse in Chatsworth, set up as an Indian township set up by the Apartheid regime about 20km south of Durban. Payal (a name which is also a term for an Indian anklet) is a street prostitute who stands on the corner opposite the warehouse. They form an unlikely friendship. (Warning: Rated age 16 and above).
The Market Theatre is committed to developing talented people and Gopala Davies, who is already making quite a name for himself, is mentored by the immensely experienced Gita Pather. This work is an incubator project and Percy Makhubele, Gift Shaleen Nwokorie, Khotso Duarte Maphelle, Odwa Ndulelisa, Thato Mojela and Philani Masedi worked on the project in various capacities, learning from their more experienced counterparts.
Albert is played by Lindani Nkosi, and Ameera Patel plays Payal. The two of them spark off each other as their characters introduce the vastly different cultural and ethical values of an educated Christian Zimbabwean man and a Hindu woman of very dubious moral virtues. The smaller character role of Mr Prathat, a former school teacher, is an interesting one, as he typifies the prejudices of society against those that fail to succeed. Dhaveshan Govender gets the unattractive character role as Payal’s brother and pimp. Keith Gengadoo plays two small roles, that of the policeman and that of the evangelist.
There is live music composed and performed by Matthew MacFarlane which added to the atmosphere and impact of this work.
One of the most magical aspects of this production is the simple yet stunning set design by Wilhelm Disbergen. The entire set has been created out of cardboard and cardboard boxes. Considering that some of it is raised dias stuff, the engineering of the cardboard had to be fairly accurately done. Costumes are designed by Karabo Legoabe and Payal’s dance item was choreographed by Priya Naidoo.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a play that is aimed at Indian audiences. It is relevant to everyone across the board. I recommend it highly.
Tamasha on Hope Street plays at the Mannie Manim Theatre, Market Theatre complex, 56 Margaret Mcingana Street, Newtown until 10 October 2017. Tuesdays to Saturdays at 20:15 and Sundays at 15:15. Cost R75 to R150.